Kenworthy Theatre - 2/6 Robert Morton
508 S Main St.
Organ installation timeframe: 1927 - 1936
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Kenworthy Theatre, c. 1930
The Kenworthy Theatre opened in 1926. A small photoplayer was initially used to accompany silent films. In 1927, a 2/6 Robert Morton (opus #2309) was purchased for $12,500. The instrument was played by Jess Lee Hall, Margaret McMann, and Clark Rush.
The theater was constructed and decorated in Spanish style. Two openings at the sides of the proscenium (below existing heating ducts) held the chests and pipework, allowing the organ to speak through swell shades into the theater.
As talkies came, the Robert Morton would have gone the way of most--lost or destroyed- had it not been for the remarkable foresight of Mr. Milburn Kenworthy, owner of the theater and organ. An article in The Idaho Argonaut, official publication of the Associated Students of the University of Idaho, dated Friday, February 28, 1936, reads: "Local Theater Magnate Gives Pipe Organ for University of Idaho Auditorium - Milburn Kenworthy makes gift of instrument valued at $10,000." In the same article, Mr. Kenworthy was quoted: "I have had many opportunities to sell the organ, but it has a sentimental value to me and I refused every sale." Mr. Kenworthy, himself a former actor in vaudeville, did a bit of research on pipe organs before selecting a Robert Morton. When asked why he chose a Robert Morton instead of another make, he said "I thought the Robert Morton had a more mellow sound and was more pleasing to hear than the others."
On Tuesday, March 10, 1936, the Board of Regents accepted Mr. Kenworthy's donation, and the contract to move and reinstall the instrument was awarded to Balcom and Vaughan, of Seattle, Washington. By Tuesday, May 19, 1936, the Robert Morton was ready in its new home in the University of Idaho Auditorium.
Main St., Kenworthy Theatre on right c.1952